Council Approves Braintree's 2012 Budget
The document includes $3.08 million in increases for schools, police and fire, public works.
The Town Council on Tuesday night approved a $96.16 million budget for 2012 – a plan that Mayor Joseph Sullivan said "meets the needs of our community in a fair-minded way."
Councilors voted unaminously to enact the document, which contains $3.08 million in budget increases for public safety, schools and other departments, $414,000 in health care savings, and a boost in Braintree's reserve funds.
"This budget, in short, is financially sound and prudently balanced," Sullivan said. "The economy continues to be a challenge, and we will have a challenging year ahead of us, but we will meet those challenges."
Two-thirds of the increase from the current fiscal year will go toward the school department. Its $49.1 million proposal represents a little less than half of Braintree's total available revenue, which comes mostly from property taxes and also from state aid and local receipts. Growth in the tax base and transfers from a number of non-personnel reserve accounts make up for reductions in federal stimulus money and general state aid.
The police department will see a $386,833 increase in operational funds, to $7.6 million, along with about $1 million in heating, air conditioning and other repairs to headquarters and $193,500 for vehicles as part of a 2011 capital spending plan also approved by councilors on Tuesday. The fire department goes up $47,743 to $7.09 million, plus capital upgrades.
Other increases include $420,568 for public works (to $6.45 million), $91,474 for Thayer Public Library (to $1.29 million), $258,563 for human resources (to $14.8 million) and $130,663 for Braintree's contribution to the budget at Blue Hills Regional Technical School (to $1.76 million).
"It's a long and arduous process to get to this point," councilor Leland Dingee said. Sullivan submitted his budget proposal for the year starting July 1 to the council on May 3, though he said the process actually started last summer after the 2011 budget was approved.
Throughout May, councilors vetted the budget, examining each department's increases to look for savings and eliminate waste. The council and finance department each saw decreases in their budgets and the mayor's office saw a nominal $1,179 increase. Braintree also managed to halt escalating health care costs, Sullivan said, through collective bargaining.
"We're running counter to a lot of municipalities in terms of saving money on health care," he said. The budget vote was 8-0 with councilor Henry Joyce absent.
The $96.16 million total does not include $15.7 million for golf, water and sewer operations that are funded through their own fees rather than general revenue. Braintree also has $11.6 million in savings in the form of free cash, stabilization funds and retained water and sewer earnings.
Sullivan will sign the budget today, one month ahead of the town's deadline, which he said "demonstrates a government that is professional, is focused, strategic and that is managing well."
The council also honored UConn coach Jim Calhoun, a Braintree native, applauded elementary school students who won state bullying awards, approved other capital funding and line item transfers, and discussed solutions to overcrowding in the schools in response to a resident's question. Stay tuned to Braintree Patch for more coverage.